One of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli was an ad sponsored by the Conservative War Chest tagging McAuliffe as part of the “Gang of Five.” According to the ad, this group -- Democratic party leaders, the media, Soros-backed groups, Wall Street liberals, and Hollywood -- pushes a far left agenda that actually dominates the Democratic party, contrary to what its supposedly moderate candidates may have to say.
The ad was no shrinking violet. It was tough, direct and -- at two minutes long -- full of information for voters. Conservatives loved it; Ed Morrissey of HotAir called it the “red-meatiest red meat of all time.”
One year later, and the Conservative War Chest is back, running similar versions of the same ad. Already up in Arkansas, they have now made buys in Iowa and North Carolina. Here is their spot for the Hawkeye State:
These spots harken back to a campaign tradition that conservatives have somewhat lost sight of. Richard Nixon in the 60s and 70s, then Reagan and Bush in the 80s, all won in part becauseliberalism was not popular anymore, and convincing voters that Democrats were in fact liberals.And when Democrats tried to position themselves as sensible centrists -- ala Michael Dukakis in 1988 -- Republicans swooped in to ask, what kind of pragmatic, results-oriented leader is a “card-carrying member” of the American Civil Liberties Union?
It is this context that explains the really “radical” departure of Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign. Welfare reform. Middle class tax cuts. Cutting government spending. Reinventing government. After his 1992 nomination address, one Republican complained that there was no way to get to his right.
Clintonism was a mirage, however. The heart of the Democratic party is now firmly with the left, even though Democrats only acquire power by positioning themselves as centrist and pragmatic. This is how we got Obamacare, after all. Rahm Emanuel and congressional Democrats took the House and Senate by running a relentlessly centrist campaign, but when they had the chance for a new, unaffordable government entitlement program -- they took it.
Republicans need to go after this contradiction, and these ads do a very good job of it.
In fact, these ads are needed now more than ever because. For all their decrying of the “smear” tactics of Lee Atwater, Democrats have actually done a good job of mimicking his strategy in the last few cycles, by branding Republicans as extremists. That was the essence of the “War on Women,” after all. It is all well and good for Republicans to reposition themselves on certain issues, like birth control, to deflect these Democratic assaults. But a counter-punch is necessary.
That’s why I like these ads so much.